Reimer: Cris Collinsworth is turning into Phil Simms

Alex Reimer
November 13, 2017 - 2:10 pm

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Cris Collinsworth was so good at his job of calling football games, they used to write feature stories about his excellence in the booth. Grantland’s Bryan Curtis once said Collinsworth, due to his extensive film study and use of analytics, was leading an evolution among sports TV analysts. The Wall Street Journal sat down with Collinsworth and awed at his preparation prior to Super Bowl 49. Sports Illustrated offered similar praise, lauding at Collinsworth’s four-laptop set up. 

Somebody named “Cris Collinsworth” called the Patriots’ dismantling of the Broncos Sunday night. The tall, slender man looked similar to the Collinsworth who was described in those profiles, and talked like him, too. But the words coming out of his mouth were often nonsensical. It was like Al Michaels was sitting next to a tanner version of Phil Simms. 

Collinsworth is not a bomb-tosser. But he used to criticize players when needed, sometimes with sharply timed silence. That was the opposite of what happened when Broncos special teamer Isaiah McKenzie dropped a punt from Ryan Allen in the opening minutes of play. After forcing Tom Brady to go three-and-out, the Broncos gave the Patriots the ball back on the 24-yard line. Two plays later, the Pats were in the end zone. 

But Collinsworth spent his time defending McKenzie, blabbering on about how difficult it is to catch kicks from left-footed punters.

Collinsworth switched between cheerleading the players and confusing the audience Sunday. He didn’t say an ill-word about Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who surrendered six catches and 137 yards to Emmanuel Sanders. In the third quarter, when Butler embarrassingly swat at the ball and whiffed, Collinsworth spent the replay giggling about how Butler “just missed it.”

The most controversial call in the blowout was Rob Gronkowski’s apparent touchdown grab that was whistled incomplete in the first quarter. Replay showed Gronkowski seemed to put his arms under the ball to prevent it from hitting the ground. Collinsworth acknowledged Gronkowski probably caught it, but said the call shouldn’t be overturned. Makes sense, right?

“In my entirely biased in favor of receivers position here, if you had to ask me flat out did he catch it? I would say he caught it,” Collinsworth said, with Simms’ circuitous syntax. “But I’m not sure you can go into the replay booth and overturn the call on the field. … Does his chest press it to the ground right there on the far side of the forearm? I don’t think they can overturn that.”

One of Tony Romo’s best qualities is his ability to spot the play call or penalty before it occurs. He’s usually ahead of the action, which allows him to explain aspects of the game to the viewers. Collinsworth offered little of that insight Sunday. He was usually perplexed, such as on the possible Gronkowski touchdown grab. 

The best moments of Collinsworth’s evening came when he provided the viewers with unintentional comedy, completing his full transformation into Simms. Midway through the fourth quarter, for example, Collinsworth started extolling Osweiler for some reason. 

“I’ll tell you: he looks better. He looks sharp out there,” Collinsworth said. 

Seconds later, Osweiler threw an interception to Patriots safety Patrick Chung.

After the pick, Collinsworth was laughing at his buffoonery. It’s the only thing somebody in his situation can do. If he couldn’t laugh, he would almost certainly cry.

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